Interim Pharr police chief promoted to permanent position

PHARR — The city swore in a new police chief during Monday’s city commission meeting, naming the interim chief to the permanent position.

Jose A. Luengo, who was named interim chief of police in October 2017, is now the city’s top cop.

“My dedication and passion is to assist and work with the hardworking community of Pharr and to provide the best customer service while pursuing department excellence through education, opportunities and self-development,” Luengo told those gathered at Monday’s meeting, including local police chiefs and the Hidalgo County district attorney.

The Rio Grande Valley native joined the Pharr Police Department in 2007. Before that, he worked five years in the McAllen Police Department’s jail unit. Within eight years of working with Pharr police, he was promoted to administrative/patrol lieutenant, serving directly under former Police Chief Ruben Villescas, according to his resume, which The Monitor acquired through a public records request.

Villescas retired in 2017 after more than three decades with the department, and the city hired a search firm, at a cost of $24,500, to advertise the position, screen applications and recommend finalists. Among the eight finalists the firm selected were two other internal applicants: Lt. William Edmundson, a 21-year department veteran and Lt. Joel Robles, a 24-year veteran. Both did not make it to the final four, selected by former city manager Juan Guerra.

“I wasn’t here during the interview process, but it was apparent from the direction that Mr. Luengo was the most qualified candidate,” said Pharr City Manager Alex Meade, who was hired last month. “From that perspective, we’re excited to be working with him.”

Luengo will earn $126,450 annually, according to Meade, an increase of approximately $24,000 from what he earned as interim chief. The search firm listed a $100,000 starting salary in its call for applicants. At the time of his departure, Villescas earned $130,075 annually, according to a public records request, which included his base pay, longevity pay, seniority pay, and education pay, among others.

“What prompted me to apply for the chief of police is I feel like I belong in this community,” Luengo said. “I want to do good for this community. I’m always looking for ways to do better, so I felt that me knowing the local culture, it was just a fit. It was a match made in heaven so to speak.”

New Pharr Police Chief Jose A. Luengo is pinned by his wife, Michelle, after being introduced at the city commissioners meeting on Monday, Jan. 7, 2018 in Pharr. Photo by (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

Luengo said he will focus on finding ways for the department to become more effective and efficient during the next year, as well as increasing training opportunities for its officers.

Assistant Police Chiefs Juan Gonzalez and Edward Chavez will remain in their positions, Luengo said. Chavez has been an assistant chief for a year and Gonzalez was recently promoted.